Is my ankle pain life-threatening? Thankfully not! Could things be worse for me? Yes, most definitely. Just the same, my recent and worse flare-up yet has left me with a few realizations. Funny how ‘forced’ inactivity affords a person extra time to think–time to think about the bad, appreciate the good and question the in-between. The thing with chronic pain is that it affects not only ourselves, but also those around us. In fact, at the height of my 14 out of 10 ankle pain, a.k.a. ‘zingers’ as I call them, my random, visceral screams and loss of breath has nearly caused my husband some heart trouble. It’s bad enough that I have to experience it, but to unconsciously share it with him, makes it even worse. Succumbing to pain medications has definitely made things more bearable for both of us, but my husband and I have each joked that if my ‘zingers’ were to continue at the level that they were, we might both need medication. Those of you with children, especially, know and understand all-to-well the gut-wrenching feeling of having to watch someone that you love suffer, leaving you to feel helpless and frustrated in return being that you are unable to remove their source of discomfort. My husband has said as much so in witnessing my struggles let alone those of you who have to watch your own kids in duress where I’m sure things are magnified a hundred times over.
The other day, after my first outing since returning from Hawaii where my ankle seemingly went ‘south’, I came home utterly and completely exhausted. You’d think that I had run a marathon, which as an aside makes me salivate at the thought of jogging again some day, but I digress. As soon as I plopped myself down on my all-too-familiar Lazy-boy, any kind of movement thereafter was beyond an effort and a half. I spent the rest of my day and night in a sort of moot fog of reality vs. something unrecognizable–both indicative of my right-now life. Then, IT really hit me–while I already knew that my life had been changed significantly in living with recurrent pain, I had no idea to what degree it has robbed me of my once-normal existence. Slowly, progressively over time, the pain has seeped into my silent thoughts, my decision-making processes, my out-loud conversations, my day-to-day life, my future plans, my everything really. While I take some comfort in knowing that I am not alone out there, I also wouldn’t wish this way of living (if you can call it that) on anyone else. Ever.
As many of you can attest, either first-hand or as sideliners, chronic conditions are a 24-7 job. When I say job, I mean the ongoing physical, mental and emotional effort that it takes to manage our days. No word of lie. From sunrise to sunset, and sometimes all of the agonizing hours in between when everyone else in the world sleeps, we either live in anticipation of our symptoms or we get the pleasure (NOT!) of experiencing them over and over, again and again. In my specific case, from the moment I wake up and take my first step wherein I can feel the weakness and stiffness of my ankle, I am prompted to think, ‘What is my ankle going to do today? How many ‘zingers’ will I have? What level will they be at? Will I make it through the day without screaming and terrifying the people around me? Will my ankle actually carry me through the day?’. Then, with each subsequent task that I do, I have to think strategically through my every physical move as to which obstacles I may have to face that may worsen my pain, i.e. stairs (the worst is going down), uneven pavement, rocky, sandy or grassy surfaces, curbs, inclines/declines, having to squat down and get back up, getting in and out of my vehicle or my chair, and the list goes on. Likewise, before I settle into bed at night, the fear of my ankle ‘going off’ slyly sidles into my psyche with both my husband and I on continual alert for my middle-of-the-night awakenings to startling, unprovoked ‘zingers’. Needless to say, morning to night worry does not make for a very enjoyable day and achieving truly restful sleep in our household is pretty much non-existent.
Interestingly enough, researchers at Cornell University have “estimated that the average adult makes about 35,000 remotely conscious decisions each day”–now, that’s a lot of decisions to be made! When you are a chronic pain sufferer like me, it’s likely that a good 10,000 or more of those in my estimation are related to one’s pain and the anxiety-inducing process of trying to avoid it at all costs, even though both you and I know that a person has no control over their neurons and when they decide to fire. For most of us, that is the most difficult part–the not having any control over what is happening in and to our bodies. Sure, we can follow our doctor’s orders, as I diligently have, and eat properly, stay hydrated, exercise (if possible) or do stretches, take prescribed medications, eliminate smoking and drinking, elicit the help of paraprofessionals (physiotherapists, massage, acupuncture, naturopaths), and pray even, but I can tell you with the utmost conviction that living with a condition in which there appears to be no clear-cut resolution/cure is downright draining to one’s soul.
Desperate for answers, I decided last week to explore the private healthcare options available here in Canada. Sadly, our public healthcare system is greatly overwhelmed and timeliness leaves a bit to be desired–often months or even a year or more of a wait. Private care comes at a cost of course, but when you are at your wit’s end, you will explore whatever options you can. Fortunately, a private MRI revealed that I have been living with a torn tendon and surgery is now required for its repair. My prayer for a name for my pain was answered, and luckily, there is a fix, which is sadly not always the case. Albeit, surgery is a scary endeavour in any situation, but I am definitely ready for it and cautiously optimistic at the prospect of living pain-free sometime in the near future. To be honest, I’m not even sure that I will recognize the feeling of freedom, but I can tell you that I will welcome it with open arms and maybe even a little beverage or two of sorts to celebrate with! Well-aware that it will be weeks, maybe even months of recovery, I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself though. I am just happy that I will get some much-needed help after years of declining mobility and a huge hit to my overall livelihood (and ego!).
In conclusion, I am grateful for the opportunity to have shared my ‘Summertime Affirmations‘ blogpost with you all last week–proof of the notion that positive thinking CAN make a difference; in fact, I highly recommend it, if you haven’t already tried it. In the meantime, I will work on my next set of affirmations around my surgery and my recovery. I will also be sending any leftover positive vibes that I can to the rest of you who are dealing with your own health issues, hoping that you, too, can find some peace and resolve, sooner rather than later:-). Cheers!